Judith Fanto’s debut novel Viktor is already being read by a large Dutch and German-speaking audience. Now, as far as she’s concerned, it’s the turn of the English-speaking world! Do you see something in collaboration with an ambitious, active, successful new author? Please feel free to contact Fanto’s Dutch publisher and discover the possibilities. Judith is looking forward to an introduction!
Read the Hebban jury report
Viktor is a wonderful novel about two generations within the same Jewish family, in which main character Geertje starts searching for answers about Viktor Rosenbaum, her grandfather’s mysterious brother. Two storylines interchange each other and the reader gets some insight in the life of the Rosenbaums in Vienna right before the Second World War and that of Geertje at the end of the twentieth century. Viktor has everything a good novel needs: a wealthy family, a black sheep, war, and many unexpected twists. But on a stylistic level, everything suits, too: a tight structure, the search for one’s identity as main theme and a beautiful narrative style. Fanto masters the Dutch language in every detail, knows how to set up dialogue, handles a smooth narrative style which makes the writing of it seem effortless, and is able to write a novel about the Second World War that is nothing like the others on the same subject.
She is able to draw the Judaism from the past to modern Judaism and shows how the experiences from decades before still have an impact on the family now. She does this with thoroughly thought out constructions, like the mirroring of both story lines. When nothing bad is happening in Vienna yet, Geertje/Judith is growing up burdened by the guilt of another generation. When the situation in Vienna starts becoming critical and being Jewish starts having horrible consequences, it is Judith who finds herself in Judaism and becomes stronger by embracing this.
Fanto has a comforting, readable style, but doesn’t shy away from using somewhat complicated syntax and word choices. The book has an eye for accurate observations and a cool humouristic style which sometimes makes the harsh reality a bit more bearable and the story somewhat lighter. But the characters contribute to this, too: they are intelligent, peculiar, funny. The main characters carry the story, with the help of the side characters that exquisitely complement them. The layers of the story and the realism of different characters (in just a few pen strokes) are refreshing and pleasant. Fanto creates a complete, round and impressive character with Viktor (based on a man who has truly existed). The parallels between Viktor and Geertje are appealing, both being outsiders and lone wolves in their family.
The questions Fanto raises are particularly interesting, but she never tries to answer the impossible, such as the hierarchy of suffering under the Shoah. She doesn’t push it too far, giving readers the chance to put the book down for a second, to think about the subjects in depth. Viktor is a book that can lead to interesting discussions, while simultaneously offering a pleasant reading experience. Beside the story, it is Fanto’s writing style, the quality you can recognize from the first sentence onwards, the buildup of scenes, and the structure of the novel that makes the book irresistible. A beautiful debut novel, the jury agrees. Judith Fanto deservedly wins the Hebban Debut Prize 2020.
Would you like to ask or tell Judith Fanto something? Would you like to book her as a speaker or approach her for a piece of writing? Judith Fanto is best reached through the email addresses of her publisher and her literary agent Kitty Bakker.
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